Monday, March 30, 2009

How to Host a Jedi Training Academy Birthday

Isaac's birthday party was a big success this last Saturday. The theme was "Jedi Training Academy" and we tried to mimic the Star Wars show from Disneyland.

We started off with an excellent Jedi Master, Qui Gon Ethan. Ethan was responsible for leading all the games which both tested and trained each young Padawan's skills.

This was our group of younglings. Each was outfitted with a very simple felt tunic and felt belt and allowed to select their light saber (swim noodle cut in half with duct tape for the handle).

While younglings waited for the rest of the group to show up, they got Sharpie markers to customize their light sabers by drawing buttons and vents and whatever else they wanted to add (like their names).

We played several Jedi Training games:

1. Don't make the Jedi laugh - A Jedi needs to be in control of his emotions at all times. This game trained the young Padawans not to laugh under even the funniest of circumstances. They stood in a line while the Jedi Master performed all kinds of funny tricks to try and get them to laugh. Our Padawan learners couldn't hold out for long and the first one to laugh got to take a turn trying to make their fellow younglings laugh, and so on. Pretty soon, kids were laughing just so they could have a turn trying to be funny.

2. Light Saber Training - In Star Wars, A New Hope, Luke trains with his light saber using a floating training ball thingy. We used our light sabers and tried to keep balloons aloft for as long as possible.

3. Hot Lava Walk - We spread a plastic tablecloth down a long hallway and used blocks of wood to create stepping stones. Padawan leaners stepped carefully to make it across the pit of burning lava without falling in.

4. Scavenger Hunt - I hid 14 little Star Wars figures around a room and created picture clues for each one. (Our guests were 5-7 years old and I wasn't sure all were familiar with what the different Star Wars Characters looked like.) We separated the group into two teams and let one person from each team pick a picture out of a bowl. Then it was a race to run to the room, find their Star Wars guy, and run back to let the next person in line pick from the bowl and do it all over again. Qui Gon Ethan stationed himself in the room where all the figures were hidden and gave help by pointing his light saber if it was needed.

5. Jedi Training - Qui Gon Ethan taught the younglings a simple, but effective light saber routine. (He watched a couple Youtube videos of the Disney Jedi Training Academy to get ideas for his lines and moves.)

Once the kids had learned their moves, Qui Gon Ethan felt a disturbance in the force. It was Darth Vader! Each Padawan got the chance to try their moves on Lord Vader while Ethan prompted them from the sidelines. Good news...the dark side was soundly defeated.

I'm sure you remember the part in Star Wars where the young Padawan learners try to break open a pinata. No? Well, use your imagination or check out this picture because I'm sure it would have looked a little something like this:

After presents the younglings refreshed themselves with Yoda Soda (lime sherbet and 7-up) and Endor Cakes (chocolate cupcakes, green sprinkles).

Guests got to take home a goody bag with Star Wars stickers, a pack of glow sticks, a Star Wars Pez dispenser, and treats from the Pinata.

We totally had the Force at this party.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday Scribblings: Aging

This is one week when I hope my parents don't read my blog.

I come from a family whose elderly talk about poop. Of course they don’t call it poop; they use more polite terms like “bowel movement” or BM for short.

Most of us in the younger generations are baffled by this disturbing discussion topic that pops up way too often. I’m fairly certain even grandma’s physician would cry, “TMI!” at the amount of detail she provides in her toilet tales.

“If I ever give that much info on my bathroom habits, just shoot me” my dad said once after listening to grandma detail her latest struggle with constipation.

Several years later I called my dad to see how he was feeling after a recent surgery.

He was doing pretty good, he said, but had some problems with his BM’s.


He told me things a daughter should never, ever have to know about her dad. My pleas of “Stop! Please!” went unheeded, maybe because he was still slightly woozy from the drugs, or possibly because he thought I was merely sympathizing with what had been for him, a very difficult ordeal.

It took 3 hours of mindless TV and a nice little chick lit bestseller to help me forget some of the images conjured up during that phone conversation.

Even more disturbing than the conversation, however, is the realization that I too will most likely be a poop talker when I am elderly.

Because apparently, it’s in my genes.

And this is what bothers me about the prospect of growing old.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Customer Service

I don't mind so much when I waste my time, but when someone else wastes it...well...that's another story.

Such was my experience today at JoAnn Crafts. You'd think that on a Thursday at 3pm things at the fabric cutting counter would be fairly idle. You'd be wrong. They were very busy.

But, I've learned a trick.

When it looks like there's a crowd at the cutting counter, get your number first and your fabric second. And, since they announce what number they are on over the PA system, feel free to wander the store until your number is called.

I did all these things. Then I looked through pattern books, searched the mislabeled drawers for patterns that might or might not be there, went back to the fabric, checked out all the discounted fabric and still was no where close to getting my fabric cut.

I stood at the counter with the other 20 ladies (and one guy) who looked like they were about to pass out from a dangerous combination of irritation and boredom. Me? I began to feel an affinity to raging lunatics.

Here are a few things I would have calmly told the JoAnn's manager had I not suspected she was one of the cutting counter slow pokes.

1. Chatting with the customer is nice. Stopping your work, leaning into the counter and sharing a 4 minute story about how your son wore Carharts to his senior prom: not nice. Really, if you can't cut and talk, then cut out the talking.

2. Please don't take 3 minutes to argue with one another about how to operate the long bolt measuring machine (or whatever it's called.) Especially when the procedure has already been completed and more customers are standing in front of you waiting to be helped.

3. What's up with taking a break when 10 people are still waiting to be helped? No! Help first, break later.

4. I'm sure the lady that stepped in front of all of us with "one quick question" had no issues with your customer service skills, especially when, after answering her question, you left the cutting counter to walk her over to the item she was looking for. Did you stop for lunch on your way, because it took you long enough!

5. Please consider an express lane so people with one or two bolts to be cut can get their fabric and be on their way and not have to wait for people with 17 bolts of fabric and an unclear idea of how much they want of each.

6. No fair, no fair, no fair not using the PA system to announce which number is up. Especially when the number announcement is little more than a whisper. Puh-leeze!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My Boys

It's been a while since I posted pictures of my boys. Here's what they've been up to...

Obi Wan Kenobi (notice light saber hooked to pocket) has been climbing trees, riding his bike and building great things out of Legos. This outfit is Jonah's favorite with the dinosaur/camouflage combo, it is the first outfit he wears each week after the laundry has been done.

You can't tell in this picture, but the wrist bands on the sleeves have almost completely separated from the rest of the sleeve and there is a big rip in the seat of these pants (stitched up, of course.)

Isaac turned 5. He got some new Star Wars guys and a bike, which he helped Robert put together and rode around the house and outside. He used his birthday money to buy a purple light saber, a stomp rocket and a Pokemon Game Boy game.

This Saturday he is having his first ever "friend" birthday party and the theme will be Jedi Training Academy.

And here is Ethan all decked out for baseball practice. This is Ethan's first time playing baseball so we got to take a trip to Sports Authority with a long list of stuff to buy. (Did you know bats cost $40?)

Practices are 4 times a week but luckily, some of them get canceled because of rain.

I'm not a fan of baseball. I don't love driving to and from practice 4 times a week and I'm pretty sure I'm not going to love sitting in the cold and rain watching the games.

I hope Ethan is having a good time. I'm pretty sure my attitude will change if I know he's loving it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

You Know What's Funny?

When you have a Family Home Evening Lesson about how we can learn how to treat our brothers by following Nephi's example in the Book of Mormon; that even though they were mean to him, he was nice back and always tried to set a good example and choose the right. And that Heavenly Father blessed him for always trying to choose the right.

And everyone at Family Home Evening agrees that treating your brothers kindly is definitely a good thing to do.

Then they all run upstairs and start fighting.

That's funny.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Here's a few things I've been meaning to post:

Blog Roll Changes
I updated "My Peeps" list with the new Blogger "blog list" feature. To be honest, it's not really new anymore. I resisted making the change for a couple reasons but finally realized that I was being a Luddite. Now, the blog with the most recent update will appear at the top of the list. (That means Allyson and Angela will always be at the bottom of the list, but I'm hoping that dubious distinction prompts them to post something.)

I wrote a while back about my Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner. After 2 or 3 weeks, the shower looks great. I have cleaned the tub part, but I only have to do that every other week as opposed to every week.

The Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner starter kit is around $15 and I have coupons for $5 off. If you want a coupon, let me know and I will mail or bring one to you.

I also have free samples of Palmolive pure + clear dish soap and $1 off coupons. The dish soap sells in the store for around $2.99.

This dish soap is biodegradable, has no unnecessary chemicals, dyes or heavy fragrances.

My favorite part about this dish soap is the pretty container. It is definitely something that would look stylish sitting on my kitchen counter, if I kept stuff on my kitchen counter.

So if you want samples and/or coupons, they're yours.

Here's what I've been reading:

Starclimber by Kenneth Oppel - Wow! A great conclusion to a very exciting YA trilogy. Lots of action, great characters, an a sweet little romance on the side.

The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon, by Richard Zimler - OK, I get the symbolism and am impressed by this authentic story of Jews in Lisbon in 1506, but holy cow, the filth and disease kind of grossed me out. (Not to mention the people-acting-like-animals-in-heat element that reared it's ugly head a few too many times for me.) The 1500's must have really stunk.

Audrey Wait! by Robin Benway - This was a fun, quick YA read about a girl whose break-up with her rock band boyfriend and his subsequent hit song based on their break-up casts an unwanted spotlight on her life.

Dandelion Fire by ND Wilson - Sequel to 100 Cupboards which I found confusing, and not just because it had been over a year since I read the first book. In this story about cupboards which are portals to other worlds, I found myself a little lost more than once and wasn't even 100% sure about a few small details by the end of the book.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Can't Sleep--No Problem

The other morning I was awake from 3 to 5am. I don't really mind being awake from 3 to 5am and here is why.

1. I love sleeping and being in bed. I have a comfortable mattress, warm blankets and relatively soft sheets. One of the best parts of being it bed is that feeling that you can just lay there and do nothing.

When I'm asleep, I'm totally unaware of how cozy and care free I really am. Yes, my body is getting rest, but my mind is usually tied up in some crazy stressful dream about not being able to take a shower or missing a college class all semester and finally remembering on the day of the final exam.

So I don't mind being awake in the middle of the night for a little while because I can truly appreciate all the great things about being in bed.

2. I don't worry that I won't be able to go back to sleep. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that I will fall back asleep by 5am. Here's how I do it:

I tell myself that if I'm still awake at 5am, I'll get up and clean. I start to think of how productive my day will be and plan out a few things I'll clean when I wake up. I don't know how it works, but it does...I've never gotten up at 5am to clean the house because I've always fallen back asleep.

3. Between the hours of 3 and 5am, my brain comes up with some really interesting stuff. I wish I could write in the dark because I'm pretty sure I'd have a notebook full of gold right now.

For example, the other morning I noticed that the clock read 4:44. I thought that if these digital numbers were turned upside down, they would be h-h-h. My next thought was that these 3 h's could stand for the title of an amazing book I could write, so I started to think of what it might be. Here is what I came up with:

Happy Horse House

Holly's Helpful Hounds

High Hopes Hindsight

See how fun that is? I could have spent another 20 minutes coming up with H titles.

But when I looked at the clock again, it had changed to 4:45 and I realized that upside down, 4:45 said, "shh." I figured the clock was probably right. I needed to quiet my mind and relax. So I did.

4. I like watching Robert sleep. Robert is rarely ever relaxed. Work keeps him busy and stressed and when he's not worrying about work, he's worrying that he isn't spending enough time with the family, or that he needs to visit his parents, or that he isn't able to spend more time on church things.

Poor guy.

But when he's asleep, he really seems relaxed and happy. And that makes me happy.

5. The final reason I don't mind being awake from 3 to 5am is because when I was a little kid and would have trouble falling asleep, my mom told me that my body still got rest by just laying there; that it didn't matter if I wasn't asleep or not.

And I believed her.

So I usually don't stress about waking up in the middle of the night. I can't remember the last time I slept through the night without waking up, and I'm OK with that.

Friday, March 13, 2009

In Case You Were Curious...

Some of you may have heard the hubbub surrounding the HBO TV show that is planning to run an episode containing a Mormon Temple Endowment.

If you are curious about why we build temples, this short video should answer some questions.

If you have other questions, I am more than happy to answer them.

Currently there are 129 Mormon Temples all over the world with 17 additional temples under construction or in the planning stages. That includes one in Rome, Italy.

This nifty map shows where all the temples are located (click on it to see a bigger version), but if you want something a bit more interactive, check out this map at

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Recurring Dreams: The Shower

Last night I dreamed I was trying to take a shower.

The shower dream is one of my recurring dreams and always leaves me feeling a little stressed out when I wake up.

Here's how the dream goes.

I need to take a shower but obstacles continuously present themselves and the shower ultimately never happens. I spend the whole dream (which in the dream is usually a whole day) just trying to take a shower so I can move on with my day.

Here are the various obstacles that present themselves.

No Privacy
Sometimes the shower is in the middle of a dining room while a dinner party is in progress. Of course guests assure me they will not be disturbed by the noise or the steam rising from above the shower curtain and encourage me to take a shower, but I don't ever take them up on it.

Other times the shower is in a room where one or more of the walls are floor to ceiling windows. Usually the view is stunning and I consider showering just to enjoy the view.

The short shower stall always presents another privacy issue. This shower is usually outdoors, in an area where lots of people are coming and going (think Grand Central Station.) The stall is tall enough to provide adequate coverage for a person of average height. But of course, I am not a person of average height, so the shower stall would leave me exposed in ways that would certainly make me very uncomfortable.

Shower Occupied
Another shower dream obstacle is the occupied shower. Sometimes the person is just taking an extra long shower and I have to wait. If I leave for one second, that person will finish and another person will jump in. It never fails.

When it finally is my turn to dream shower, the hot water has run out due to the excessive length of all the other showerer's showers. So I wait for the water to warm up and then, guess what?

Someone else gets in the shower before me.

Unable to Remove Clothes
This is without a doubt the most disturbing part of the whole dream because now I've finally gotten into a private shower and it's my turn. The shower can happen.

Except I can't remove my clothes.

Sometimes I can take off clothes, but more and more keep appearing underneath as if I've layered everything I own onto my body. I keep stripping off shirts, only to see another shirt beneath it while a big pile of shirts grows on the floor next to me.


Then I wake up in a panic and spend the next 30 minutes doing calm breathing and trying to relax.

I suppose I've had to wait to shower in real life. I've lived in college dorms after all.

But I've never had to wait all day.

And once I saw a shower that had a wall (more like window!) that was floor to ceiling clear glass. But I was not invited to shower in it.

I just don't know what to make of it, other than I'm uptight and concerned about my modesty.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hello Spare Tire

Yesterday I was completely out of sorts. I discovered a big roll of flab right around my waist that wasn't there the day before. I swear it wasn't. The flab roll was an annoying presence every time I sat down or bent over or went up the stairs.

I was so discouraged, yet still managed to purchase a giant container of butter toffee covered popcorn with almonds and cashews from Target. I became even more discouraged when I noticed just before dinner that I'd snacked away two-thirds of the entire container.

Right before bed I had a very significant and happy realization.

It had been laundry day. Everything was dirty. I was wearing paint stained sweats and an old t-shirt. Even my, how shall I say it, "unmentionables" were from a dark corner of the drawer that rarely sees daylight. It suddenly occurred to me that my underwear was a smaller size than I normally wore. It wasn't me that had grown, it was underwear that was too small.

Wooo hooooo!

Of course I soon admitted to myself that I'd fit quite comfortably into that stuff just 2 years ago, but still, a flab roll appearing over 2 years time is much less disturbing than a flab roll that appears over night.

Today the laundry is done, and I've got the right size. Happy day!

Friday, March 6, 2009

You Did What?

This morning...

Ethan: Mom, guess what I did last night.

Me: What?

Ethan: I organized the socks in my sock drawer by length and softness.


Ethan: Hey Jonah, check it out--mom just fainted.

(OK, kidding about the fainting part, but the rest of the conversation is 100% accurate. And I'm still slightly in shock that the words, "I organized" came out of Ethan's mouth. I never want to forget this day.)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Rebel With an Update

A few of you wanted to know how Jr. Great Books went with my contraband book, "Christina Katerina and the Box."

The short answer: Great

First, the book had pictures. This kept my group focused on the story.

Second, it was a great story about a little girl's creativity and her friendship with the boy next door. There were plenty of things to talk about and discuss with the story. The kids had fun drawing pictures of what they would do with a big box.

Third, I had fun sharing the story with the kids which made it more fun for me and I think, more fun for them.

The next book I'm planning to bring, "Pickle Chiffon Pie" by Jolly Roger Bradfield.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I'm Super, You Can Be Super Too!

Check me out! I'm a super hero! "The Spectacular Charitable Philanthropist!"

You can transform yourself into a superhero here, at the Hero Factory and don't worry, there are plenty of other accessories you can choose from besides the "grocery bag of pain." (Who knows what weapons of misery lurk in the "grocery bag of pain!")

(Although with a name like "Charitable Philanthropist" the grocery bag is probably just filled with canned goods for the food bank.)

A nice touch to the hero factory website is the song, "I need a Hero" by Bonnie Tyler plays while you create your superhero. I found it very inspiring.

If you need to feel a little super today, I highly recommend making yourself into a superhero.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


At the beginning of the school year, in a moment of misunderstanding, I volunteered to help in my children's classrooms with something called Jr. Great Books. I believe the e-mail that snagged me came from my son's teacher and said something like this:

"Do you love reading? Do you love sharing great books and stories with kids? Do you want the love and admiration of all those around you? If you answered "yes" Jr. Great Books is just the thing for you."

(She had me at "love reading.")

At the training I realized that Jr. Great Books was going to be a little bit more of a time commitment than I was interested in making. I tried to back out, but the teachers worked with my schedule and my special needs (can my 4 year old come?) and eventually I could not say no.

So I'm a Jr. Great Books volunteer. I have a "teacher's manual" filled with stories and questions and activities to do with the kids to help them learn to think critically about literature.

Either the kids don't like Jr. Great Books or they don't like ME. It's entirely possible it's me. But it could be that the stories are not that great. And the activities make me feel like I'm beating a dead horse.

I'm a rule follower. Always have been. Except the speed limit. (Sorry, sometimes I just can't drive 55.) But I can't help thinking that I have lots of stories that would be waaaaaaaaay better than the ones Jr. Great Books has in the teacher's manual.

I've tried to follow their plan, but today I'm rebelling. I'm bringing my own story and making up my own questions and activities and it's going to be GREAT.

"Christina Katerina and the Box" by Patricia Lee Gauch was one of my favorite stories as a kid and as an adult, I love reading this aloud to my own kids.

Hopefully the Jr. Great Books kids in 1st grade will love it too.

I'm a little nervous about breaking the rules and hope that no one notices my contraband book.

For the first time in a while however, I'm looking forward to volunteering for Jr. Great Books.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sunday Scribblings: Lost

I got on the “Lost” fan boat during the first season. I watched it faithfully, turned away visitors if they wanted to come when it was on, called my friends during the commercials to ask, “can you believe it?” and dreamed about the show at night.

The next day I would check “Lost” message boards, form theories and e-mail all the people I didn’t call during the commercial breaks.

Season after season I watched “Lost” and tried to piece together clues. I scrutinized screen shots and browsed Oceanic’s fake website.

One year “Lost” didn’t come on in September. I had to wait until February. But there would be no repeats, no skipped weeks. It would be OK.

I hung on the proverbial cliff for 8 months once again and watched in February for yet another season. There had been a writer’s strike which meant fewer episodes and skipped weeks.

I began to feel that “Lost” was asking too much. I was giving, giving, giving and “Lost” was only taking.

The final blow to my relationship with “Lost” came this January, a month before the 5th season started. Our family switched from Dish TV service to the free “rabbit ear” television service. Without a DVR, TV just seemed like too much work.

I told “Lost” I would probably check it out on the web. At my leisure. But the first episode was 2 hours long.

2 hours.

That seemed like a big commitment to make, sitting in the uncomfortable office chair in front of my computer. Watching a show. I had other things I could be doing with that time.

I just wasn’t that into “Lost” any more. I didn’t want my time to be lost to “Lost.”

Letting go of “Lost” has been liberating, really. Even though I’ve been told by my old “Lost” friends that if I don’t tune into “Lost” soon, they won’t know what to do with me. “It will blow your mind” they say. “You have to watch.”

I know “Lost” will always be there for me if I decide to come back. If not at, then at Blockbuster or Netflix. We’ll just have to see.